May 21, 2004
LINCOLN, NE - Jenn Piazza had a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth to drive in the only run as Florida Atlantic University defeated Mississippi State University, 1-0, in an elimination game Friday night at the NCAA Regional in Lincoln, NE. Candice Freel threw her 17th shutout of the season as she allowed just three hits. The win improved FAU to 56-17 while MSU finished its season at 39-26.
Both teams struggled against strong pitching through five innings. The first real threat for either team came in the top of the sixth when the Bulldogs put runners at first and second with no outs. After a sacrifice advanced them to second and third, Freel went to work. She retired Blaire Brown on a groundout to third before Lindsay Nelson grounded to second to end the inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, Callie Piper led off with a single to right center. Pam Mazzarella then laid down a bunt in front of the plate and reached first on a throwing error by the pitcher. Jessica Braggins followed with a sacrifice to advance Ashley Greene and Marlene Lopez to second and third, respectively. Piazza followed with a drive to center that allowed Lopez to score the go-ahead run.
Freel came back in the seventh to retire the side in order to clinch the win. She retired the last six batters she faced while striking out five with two walks. The win was the second of her career in NCAA Regional action. She shut down an MSU team that was hitting .305 coming in.
"That was a heck of a ballgame," said FAU head coach Joan Joyce. "I thought Candice being able to get out of the sixth was the key for us. She did a terrific job the whole game."
The win for the Owls continued a trend for the team over the past two years when facing elimination in post-season competition. Including Atlantic Sun Conference Championships and NCAA Regionals, FAU is now 10-1 since 2003 in such games.
Florida Atlantic will next play Saturday afternoon at 3:30pm EDT against Creighton. The Bluejays defeated the Owls, 6-2, in Thursday's opening round game. FAU needs to win twice Saturday and twice Sunday to earn its first trip to the College World Series.